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‘Ali Akbar Khan insisted on purity of each note’

Ranjani Govind

Rajeev Taranath recollects the time spent with the maestro


Taranath has been a student of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan since 1955

‘The classes were always informal, stretching for hours together’




Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Rajeev Taranath


BANGALORE: Teaching and sharing is a major feature of Maihar Gharana and sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan revelled in training thousands across the globe, according to Rajeev Taranath, illustrious disciple of the maestro.

The son of Baba Allauddin Khan, the 88-year-old Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, synonymous with the Maihar Gharana, died in San Francisco on June 19 following a prolonged kidney ailment.

‘Great loss’

“Since 1989 I have been going to the U.S. every year to play with my guru and of course learn from him,” said Mr. Taranath.

“His death is a great loss to the world of music. He was an unparalleled melody maker who insisted on the purity of each note,” said Mr. Taranath on telephone from Mysore.

Best aspect

Mr. Taranath said that the best aspect of the Maihar Gharana was its sensibility and compliance with the sitar, sarod, surbahar, flute or vocals. The inherent versatility helped the style flourish on various instruments and brought out stalwarts such as Ravi Shankar and Pannalal Ghosh on the sitar and flute, respectively.

“As a toddler Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was acclimatised to musical notes and he learned vocals from his father and percussion from his uncle Fakir Aftabuddin. His father trained him in several other instruments too, but he decided to concentrate on the sarod and vocals,” said Mr. Taranath.

Mr. Taranath has been a student of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan since 1955.

Recollecting his classes as a young student in Bombay and Calcutta, he said, “The classes were always informal, stretching for hours together. It was his insistence on riyaz that helped me gain perception on the clarity of notes and the contours of a scale seemed to extend with constant exploration. He was also particular about sticking to the Maihar Gharana that guided one in correctness of movements on the sarod,” he said.

What Mr. Taranath enjoyed though was being part of the stretched out practice sessions in his guru’s San Francisco home, saying “that gave me immense pleasure.”

Mr. Taranath said, “My guru believed that with music one could gain more by sharing, and that he did till the end.

He believed that music, just as food, was a basic need.”

Court musician

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was the first to feature in HMV’s gramophone recording in Lucknow.

He was the court musician for the Maharaja of Jodhpur and on the invitation of maestro Yehudi Menuhin performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

He later founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in California.

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